Once Southeastern Conference play begins, midweek games tend to become something of a proving ground for guys to get their work in and struggling pitchers trying to right the ship.
That won’t be the case Wednesday night.
LSU (14-7) hosts Tulane (9-12) at Alex Box Stadium looking to snap a four-game losing streak against the Green Wave, the program’s longest drought against its chief in-state rival since the 1970s.
“I’d like to say I’d trade losing a couple of games to Tulane for making it to the College World Series Finals like we did last year,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, “but truthfully, I really don’t like losing to Tulane.”
The coach continued: “I know we have a big series this weekend (at Vanderbilt), but that’s what you have to guard against, the players looking beyond these midweek games because the SEC games are so important. But if there’s a team you don’t look beyond, obviously it’s Tulane.”
Here’s something to put the four-game losing streak in perspective: only three players on LSU’s roster have actually beaten Tulane.
“I haven’t beat Tulane in my two years being here,” junior outfielder Antoine Duplantis said. “Like Coach said, once we get to SEC play, sometimes you kind of overlook these midweek games, but I feel we’re kind of on the bubble of making the next step to being a good team. We know how important it is that we win these games”
One of those was Austin Bain, who actually started and earned the win in LSU’s last victory in the series, a 6-0 shutout on April 21, 2015. The other two holdovers are Bryce and Beau Jordan, who were still bench players at the time.
“That’s kind of cool,” said Bain, who wasn’t aware of that little piece of trivia. He then considered that it meant it had been two full seasons of getting swept by an in-state rival: “That’s no fun.”
Don’t expect any of the midweek tinkering of confidence-boosting outings on Wednesday. LSU will start Nick Storz and then turn the ball over to AJ Labas for an extended outing, provided he’s throwing the ball well.
If LSU leads in a close game, expect Mainieri to turn things over to his go-to relievers; Devin Fontenot, Matt Beck, Nick Bush and Bain. He quite literally laughed at the notion that he’d be anxious to get more work for the pitchers who struggled through an eight-run eighth inning on Saturday night.
“I’m not that anxious,” Mainieri laughed. “Are you anxious to see them? We’ve reached that point now where we’re going to go with the guys we think we can count on.”
– Mainieri said he planned to put the team through a session of “Baseball 101” after LSU ran into a number of outs on the basepaths this past weekend.
– Catcher Nick Coomes (concussion) has been medically cleared to return and practiced fully on Tuesday.
– Wednesday is Prostate Cancer Awareness Night at the Box, so LSU will wear light-blue batting helmets in recognition of the effort to treat prostate cancer.
LSU – Fr. RHP Nick Storz (first collegiate appearance)
TU – Fr. RHP Josh Bates (1-0, 4.30 ERA, 14.2 IP, 8 BB, 12 SO)
Wednesday, March 21 – 6:30 p.m. CT
Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La. (10,326)
LSU – No. 15 by Collegiate Baseball; No. 18 by Baseball America
Tulane – unranked
LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates, including WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge
The game may be viewed on SEC Network+, accessible at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app
LSU leads Tulane, 180-130-3, in a series that began with the first intercollegiate athletic event in LSU history, a 10-8 victory for the Tiger baseball squad over Tulane in 1893. LSU won nine of 10 meetings with the Green Wave from 2011-15, but Tulane has won four straight games over the Tigers over the past two seasons. Paul Mainieri has a 13-9 mark against Tulane in his 12-season coaching tenure at LSU.